Another week, another chance to learn from my parenting mistakes. I’m getting (slightly!) better at being gentle with myself about these stumbles and falls but there’s nothing harder, sometimes, than parenting others while trying to re-parent yourself. I’ve been reflecting and writing recently on parenting, c-ptsd and the challenge of making repairs to the boat whilst we sail onwards. What has struck me most often in the midst, and aftermath, of recent errors and episodes of yelling is the need to pause. I find myself coming back to this idea all the time and yet it’s very hard to DO.
Then I drew the connection between the pause and the idea of STOP, LOOK, LISTEN: the famous cornerstones of the road safety message.
As children, we’re taught to cross the road but we aren’t taught that the same skills and awareness can be used to navigate the present moment.
Every moment is the present moment. And so, whatever’s happening, whether it’s resistance to bath night, a fuss over dinner, a refusal to do school work or a happy moment of playing together and connection, it is what IS. In every moment, we tend to react in one of two ways: to say yes to the moment (it pleases us) or to say no (it displeases us). In reality, beyond the binary of good and bad, yes and no, the moment just is how it is. (For more wonderful insight into life beyond binary thinking do read Alex Iantaffi and M-J Barker’s book Life Isn’t Binary).
The present moment offers us a cross roads – a moment when we get to choose to react out of habit/fear/anger or to act based on kindness/hope and with awareness.
As with crossing the road, the first step in almost all moments is to STOP. This pause is the first and most important step. Just stop. Be. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
The next step is to LOOK. What do we SEE in front of us? As with crossing the road, we need to see what the hazards and opportunities are. Looking with our inbuilt filters set aside, or at least allowing for them, looking with clear eyes allows us to gauge, with honesty and clarity, what the next steps could be.
The next step depends on the situation but there are few moments in life that would not benefit from us taking the time to LISTEN. Listening allows us to spot things on the road that we perhaps cannot see. In the moment, it allows us to fully understand that moment beyond our assumptions and judgements.
In most situations, and especially when parenting teens and tweens, the less we do the better. The more we listen and take in as opposed to telling and doing, the better. I came across the concept of the should-storm recently and it’s helpful in relation to parenting, as well as life generally. I myself have written before about the idea of “should” and, as is often the case with most simple and helpful things, letting go of the “should’s” is easier to understand than it is to implement. Learning to take each moment at a time and be gentle on ourselves as we make the inevitable mistakes is part of learning to live a conscious life.
Every moment is new, every person and experience is new in the now. Even if you lose your cool or are feeling terrible, maybe this is what the moment needs. I know (all too well!) that that’s not easy to sit with but, trust me, even if you’re stumbling along your path you’re still travelling. So, take that pause, look, listen and learn to experience this unique moment exactly as it is.
More on stop, look and listen in practice in the coming weeks…